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Imperial catechism (1806) : Extract

Cardinal Caprara, the papal legate, approved the Imperial Catechism for use in all the churches of France. A preliminary version was issued just two years after the signing of the concordat, when Naploeon knew he could count on the cooperation of the Catholic clergy. According to this, the real meaning of the Fourth Commandment, inscribed by God on a stone tablet that he gave to Moses, is that one should obey Napoleon.

On the meaning of the Fourth Commandment
[to honour your parents]

 Q. - What are the Christian duties regarding the princes who govern them, and what are our particular duties to Napoleon I, our Emperor?

A. - Christians owe to the princes who govern them, and we owe in particular to Napoleon I, our Emperor, love, respect, obedience, faithfulness, military service, the contributions ordered for the preservation and the defence of the Empire and its throne; we also owe fervent prayers for his health and for the spiritual and temporal well-being of the State.

Q. - Why are we bound by these duties to our Emperor?

A. - First, because God, who creates empires and distributes them according to His Will, in overwhelming our Emperor with gifts, whether in peace or in war, has established our Sovereign, has made him the agent of His Power and His Image upon earth. To honour and serve our Emperor is thus to honour and serve God Himself....

Q. - What should one think of those who fail in their duties towards our Emperor?

A. - According to the Apostle, Saint Paul, they are offering resistance to the order established by God Himself, and they are rendering themselves worthy of Eternal Damnation.


Note: This part was edited by the Bishop of Orleans, Mgr. [Étienne] Bernier [who represented the French Government in the concordat negotiations] and revised by the Emperor. It wasn't approved by the pope, but the [papal] legate, Caprara accepted it on 30 May 1806.

For further extracts in English see: "Modern History Sourcebook:From The Imperial Catechism, 1806"



Le catéchisme impérial de 1806, Leçon VII


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